Nationals stage epic comeback in 7-3, 10-inning win over Dodgers in NLDS Game 5

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The Nationals looked defeated for most of NLDS Game 5 against the Dodgers, but they staged a late comeback against the Dodgers’ bullpen to pull out a 7-3 victory in 10 innings on Wednesday night.

The Dodgers jumped on Stephen Strasburg early as Max Muncy swatted a two-run home run in the first inning and Kiké Hernández followed up with a solo shot in the second, staking Walker Buehler to a 3-0 lead. Strasburg would settle down from there, but Buehler outmatched him.

Buehler didn’t get into hot water until the fifth inning when Kurt Suzuki drew a leadoff walk and Michael A. Taylor grounded a single to center field, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Buehler, however, wriggled out of the jam by striking out Strasburg and Trea Turner, then getting Adam Eaton to fly out.

The Nationals finally got through against Buehler in the sixth as Anthony Rendon led off with a double and scored on Juan Soto‘s RBI single to right field.

Buehler got into more trouble in the seventh, leading off the inning by hitting Suzuki with a two-seam fastball that ran too far inside. Buehler, however, would strike out Taylor and get Asdrúbal Cabrera to line out. Turner drew a walk to extend the Nationals’ rally and with Buehler at 117 pitches, manager Dave Roberts decided to bring lefty Clayton Kershaw in as a reliever to face Eaton. The decision paid off as Kershaw struck out Eaton on three pitches to escape the seventh inning.

Buehler finished the night allowing the one run on four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts across 6 2/3 innings. Strasburg served up his three runs on six hits and a walk with seven strikeouts in six innings.

Kershaw returned to the mound for the eighth inning in what would be neither his Roberts’ finest hour. Rendon immediately greeted Kershaw with a solo homer to right field to make it 3-2. Soto followed up with a solo homer to right-center to tie the game. Roberts brought in Kenta Maeda, who proceeded to strike out the side.

Patrick Corbin worked a scoreless bottom of the eighth for the Nationals. Roberts sent Joe Kelly to the mound in the ninth. He worked a 1-2-3 inning. Daniel Hudson kept the game deadlocked at 3-3 with a scoreless bottom of the ninth to send the game into extra innings.

Roberts sent Kelly out for a second inning of work, another decision that would come back to haunt him. Kelly walked Eaton to start the frame, then Anthony Rendon hit a ground-rule double to left field. With first base open, Soto was intentionally walked, but Kendrick followed up by swatting a tie-breaking grand slam to center field, putting the Nationals up 7-3.

Sean Doolittle took the mound in the bottom half of the 10th. He struck out pinch-hitter A.J. Pollock, got Muncy to ground out, and Justin Turner to fly out to shallow center field on a nice diving play from Taylor. The play was reviewed but the call on the field was quickly upheld. The Nationals officially won their first playoff series.

For the first time since 1981, and for the first time since moving to D.C. and shedding the Expos name in 2005, the Nationals are in the NLCS. The Cardinals, who won Game 5 convincingly against the Braves earlier today, will have home field advantage, so the series will begin on Friday in St. Louis. The two sides last matched up in the postseason in the 2012 NLDS, which the Cardinals won in five games.

Major League Baseball threatens to walk away from Minor League Baseball entirely

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The war between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball escalated significantly last night, with Minor League Baseball releasing a memo accusing Major League Baseball of “repeatedly and inaccurately” describing the former’s stance in negotiations and Major League Baseball responding by threatening to cut ties with Minor League Baseball entirely.

As you’re no doubt aware, negotiations of the next 10-year Professional Baseball Agreement, which governs the relationship between the big leagues and the minors — and which is set to expire following the 2020 season — have turned acrimonious. Whereas past negotiations have been quick and uncontroversial, this time Major League Baseball presented Minor League Baseball with a plan to essentially contract 42 minor league baseball teams by eliminating their major league affiliation. Baseball is also demanding that Minor League Baseball undertake far more of the financial burden of player development which is normally the responsibility of the majors.

That plan became public in October when Baseball America reported on the contraction scheme, after which elected officials such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren began weighing in on the side of Minor League Baseball. Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball were not happy with all of that and, on Wednesday, Manfred bashed Minor League Baseball for taking the negotiations public and accused Minor League Baseball of intransigence, saying the minors had assumed a “take it or leave it” negotiating stance.

Last night Minor League Baseball bashed back in the form of a four-page public memo countering Manfred’s claims, with point-point-by-point rebuttals of Major League Baseball’s talking points on various matters ranging from stadium facilities, team travel, and player health and welfare. You can read the memo in this Twitter thread from Josh Norris of Baseball America.

Major League Baseball responded with its own public statement last night. But rather than publicly rebut Minor League Baseball’s claims, or to simply say, consistent with Manfred’s statement on Wednesday, that it preferred to negotiate in private, it threatened to simply drop any agreement with Minor League Baseball and, presumably start its own minor league system bypassing MiLB entirely:

“If the National Association [of Minor League Clubs] has an interest in an agreement with Major League Baseball, it must address the very significant issues with the current system at the bargaining table. Otherwise, MLB clubs will be free to affiliate with any minor league team or potential team in the United States, including independent league teams and cities which are not permitted to compete for an affiliate under the current agreement.”

So, in the space of about 48 hours, Manfred has gone from being angry at the existence of public negotiations to negotiating in public, angrily.

As for Minor League Baseball going public itself, one Minor League Baseball owner’s comments to the Los Angeles Times seems to sum up the thinking pretty well:

“Rob is attempting to decimate the industry, destroy baseball in communities and eliminate thousands of jobs, and he’s upset that the owners of the teams have gone public with that information in an effort to save their teams. That’s rich.”

Things, it seems, are going to get far worse before they get better. If, in fact, they do get better.